Basking in Bali
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It was the first time we had arrived at a destination with hardly any knowledge of the country, no local money, and I think we were also suffering slight withdrawal symptoms as a result of having to function without a van. The lovely thing about the campervan was that it was never necessary to think about whether we needed anything with us for the day – we always had everything! We started by finding the ATM in the airport to withdraw cash but were immediately flummoxed by the offer of 500,000, 1 million, 3 million or 5 million rupiah. One million seemed so large an amount that I couldn't bring myself to take out more. Then we sat and did the sums to find we had the grand sum of £75 which was not going to take us far. There are approximately 13,800 rupiah to the pound
By 8am we arrived at the Ari Putri Hotel to ask if we could leave our luggage, even if we could not check in. Surprisingly, they said they would have the room ready in 15 minutes and they did. As we had not slept it was bliss to go and have a nap.
To say the Ari Putri exceeded our expectations is a huge understatement. We found it through Hostelworld and booked 2 nights to give us time to sort ourselves out in Bali and decide where we wanted to go. We selected it because it was the cheapest. However, it provides a traditional style, secluded, calm oasis where all needs are met. Although small with only 38 rooms, there is a pool surrounded by tropical shrubs and fountains, a gym, book exchange, daily room service, pool towels, free wifi, free (very good) breakfast buffet, free water and a room about the size of 8 vans, together with a dressing area and ensuite. All for a total of £22 per night for the 2 of us. After one night we booked another 2 weeks!
It was 2 days before we went out of the hotel – we just enjoyed the comfort.
I already knew that Bali, and most of Indonesia, is one of the most densely populated areas in the world so I expected high rise buildings and when a number of people told us it was the equivalent of Spain for Aussies, I was prepared for disappointment
When we did venture out we found the beach 5 minutes walk away, a few hotels with well tended gardens adjoining the beach providing a pleasant walk along the path which stretches for miles, and lots of stalls selling the usual hats, dresses etc. Unfortunately they don't sell swimsuits. I needed a new one desperately (don't think boom netting helped mine) but when I asked on one stall the woman told me she had plenty and to sit for 5 minutes and she would bring them. She returned with a plastic bag stuffed with swimsuits that I soon realised were all used. What was worse, non seemed bigger than a size 10 and most were children's. She kept pulling one out, stretching it and saying, “it's big, look!”, as she just managed to get both hands inside. I escaped and gave up the search for a few days. We went for a long walk to the other side of the town and I thought I might try again but the same thing happened. The stall holder gave me a chair, said she would be back soon, and 10 minutes later appeared with a plastic bag full of swimsuits
We have visited a number of sites on the island, not on public transport which either does not exist or is hard to access, but in a car with driver. For a full day 8am to 6pm the cost was £30. It is much easier as our driver knew where to park, buy tickets, when to wear a sarong etc. When visiting the major temples it is necessary for men and women to wear a sarong and our driver carries some in his vehicle. There are lots of temples to visit, some on the coast, others just off shore on little islands, and view points to see the dormant volcanoes and rice paddies, (which are my favourite as they are such intricate designs but functionally efficient and providing homes to birds and animals). The rice is not all harvested at the same time so it is possible to see newly planted areas, small plants and mature ones adjacent to each other.
The temples vary in size and character. Local neighbourhoods of 100 to 150 families have walls surrounding them with houses, small courtyards and their own temple within. Then the village has a temple, the area has a temple and in Basakih is the main or Mother Temple. Some are interesting structures and there are different designs depending upon size and location but they consist mainly of black or grey stone so sometimes they appear quite oppressive and even menacing
Religion seems to be woven into the life of everyone here and is highly visible, not just as a result of the plethora of temples but because each day people make offerings which they leave by statues, in front of shops, on the footpath, everywhere they want to invoke good fortune. The offerings are placed in small baskets made of banana leaves and contain flowers, petals, biscuits, fruit etc. Although a sign of a healthy spiritual culture, as the day progresses the offerings are often blown by the wind, trodden on or scattered by animals so they end up making everywhere look very messy and untidy to me.
The first day here I looked up in the sky and saw a huge bird. Very excited, I called Jim to look and grabbed my binoculars. Then I saw the string. It was a giant kite shaped like an owl. Kite flying is big here. There are always some flying and one evening there were at least 100 in the sky.
The people here are very gentle and helpful although our lack of Indonesian or Balinese and their limited English sometimes inhibits communication. I wanted to find out if the French Open Tennis was on TV and so (despite Jim telling me that no-one would understand) I was foolish enough to ask if they had a red button option on the TV. I wished I hadn't as they were desperate to help me but could not understand, and I couldn't explain the concept. They obviously felt they had failed me in some way despite my protests that it was not a problem.
We visited a Bird Park, which is a superb garden as well as being home to a large collection of Asian and other birds. Another day we stopped at a Butterfly Farm. I walked through a screen into the butterfly enclosure to be accosted by hands placing huge butterflies on my chest. Extremely disconcerting, not the butterflies but the invasion of personal space, which probably constituted an assault in England! There were insects to be seen too, (which again were plastered on my front, Jim escaped this treatment), including a leaf insect which had the best camouflage I have ever seen. (See if you can spot it in the photograph.)
Our 2 weeks plus at the Ari Putri has soon come to an end and tomorrow we are going to an off shore island about 12 miles away where we hope there will be good snorkelling and diving.